See TIME's picks for our favorite titles from the front half of the year
It’s turning into a big year for readers. Though highly-anticipated releases from authors such as Jonathan Franzen and Harper Lee remain on the horizon, 2015 has already produced enough great books to topple a nightstand.
To help you sort through the year’s offerings or choose which titles to add to your summer reading list, TIME has ranked the best books of 2015 (so far). The picks span genre and form — including a darkly enchanting collection of short stories, a delightful novel featuring a dysfunctional bride-to-be and a singing memoir chronicling both grief and, yes, taming a hawk. Happy reading!
A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
Atkinson covers four generations of the Todd family that was at the center of her novel, Life After Life. The narrative jumps throughout the 20th century around the story of Teddy Todd, a Royal Air Force pilot in World War II who struggles with his postwar survival.
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
When disaster dooms the planet, people across the world unite to send a coalition into outer space and ensure the survival of their species. After 5,000 years, seven races of humans stem from the survivors, and they attempt to return to a changed earth.
I Take You by Eliza Kennedy
Lily Wilder, a promiscuous lawyer in New York, prepares to marry her archaeologist fiancé, Will. The novel follows her difficulties embracing monogamy in both theory and practice, told with the inflection of Lily’s humor.
Get in Trouble by Kelly Link
Each of these nine stories takes place in a seemingly normal setting, such as a hotel or at a birthday party, into which dark elements of the fantastic and supernatural subtly intrude.
Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman
A collection of tales from virtuoso storyteller Neil Gaiman, ranging from horror to science fiction to fairy tales to verse. They include “adventure story,” Gaiman’s rumination on death, and “a calendar of tales,” short takes inspired by his replies to fan tweets.
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
An experienced falconer, Macdonald resolves to train a vicious predator, the goshawk, as a means to cope with the death of her father. This stunning memoir explores the deep strange bond she forms with her bird.
The Story of Alice by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst
The Story of Alice charts the curious, controversial friendship between Oxford mathematician Charles Dodgson (more commonly known as Lewis Carroll) and Alice Liddell, the child for whom he created Alice in Wonderland. The book also explores how and why Alice in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking Glass, have had such lasting cultural resonance.
The Brothers by Masha Gessen
Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen’s passionate, opinionated, deeply reported exploration of the long road that led the Tsarnaev brothers to commit the Boston Marathon bombing. She traces the family’s history from Chechnya to a precarious Boston-area immigrant demi-monde, asking urgent questions and avoiding simple answers.
The Folded Clock by Heidi Julavits
Inspired by diaries from her childhood, Heidi Julavits chronicles her daily life in this diary-form memoir that is simultaneously about small details and big ideas.
How Music Got Free by Stephen Witt
Journalist Stephen Witt writes a lucid, mordantly funny account of the rise of digital music piracy, starting with the story of a worker in a North Carolina CD-pressing plant who personally leaked more than 2,000 albums over eight years.
Thank you images and information from TIME.com
Madame Simon Residence, France May 13, 2003
Dennis New York, New York June 26, 2009
Merce Cunningham New York, New York January 23, 2009
Between the series, their personal blogs, and the various tabloids they frequent, you'd think you already knew everything about these women. But the interviews—with cast members and producers—in The Real Housewives Get Personal contains behind-the-scenes satchels of gold. While the size of the book is a little bit cumbersome to be the perfect "beach read," its content is exactly that. The text pages—like the forward by Andy Cohen, interviews with Housewives past and present, and back stories about how each incarnation of the show was developed and cast—are broken up with big colorful pages full of elaborate jokes and infographics, making it an easier read for the kind of people who prefer to watch television. Take this page, for example, which compares the breasts of each member of the Orange County cast to a kind of fruit.
Or this service-y breakdown of the ethnic makeup and financial standing of the town of Franklin Lakes, NJ (where most of the Housewives of New Jersey reside). The fact that it costs $42 for a mani/pedi at Chateau proves that cheap nail care is one of the only financial benefits of living in NYC.
While the book is a little outdated—it was obviously completed before Kelly's Caribbean freak out and Bethenny and Jill's falling out (although Kelly does talk about bullies and uses the lemons/lemonade analogy correctly)—it's still highly entertaining and packed with actual weirdo quotes from these women. There's so much to read and look at, that fans of the franchise could find themselves cracking up at just a little corner of the table of contents.
The behind-the-scenes tidbits are really interesting. For example, the show started—with Orange County—because Executive Producer Scott Dunlop was a "disenchanted" Coto de Caza resident. His neighbor was Jeana Keough. He decided to put together a "semi-improvised sitcom" called Behind the Gates with Jeana and a few other women. He pitched it to Bravo, which they retooled into The Real Housewives. Slade and Jo were cast on the show because they were attending a fund raising party in the neighborhood and Dunlop offered anyone who would donate enough money a cameo on the show. Slade immediately cut a check for $2500.
Producers say that Ramona Singer's "shooting ratio" is very high because "as long as she's in front of the camera, there's almost a guarantee that the scene is going to make it on the air."
DeShawn Snow left after the first season of Atlanta to attend divinity school.
Producers put together the cast of New Jersey after finding Jacqueline Laurita at her salon—Chateau the Art of Beauty—and she recommended all the other cast members.
Teresa Guidice doesn't like Bruce Springsteen or Bon Jovi.
But the best part is definitely the exclusive interviews with the women, with some of them opening up even more about their personal lives, while others just talk shit on the other cast members. Here are some highlights:
Teresa on Danielle
"She came to my shore house and acted inappropriately. Her boyfriend Steve's lying on the recliner…she goes and lies right on top of him and sticks her tongue in his mouth. My older daughter and Danielle's two daughters were sitting right there on the couch staring at her…And then she had sex with him that whole night and told me all about it the next day. She leaves my house and then doesn't even take the sheets off the bed. She's a pig."
Caroline on Danielle
"What Danielle said about giving out a phone number on Andy's show was bullshit. She's a disgusting human being. She's full of shit. It's not that simple…For me to get to that point, it's more than a phone number. No comment."
Danielle on what she did to make Caroline cry
"You can quote me. Dina used to work at Nisha Nails—where I get my nails done—for seventeen years. The owner of Nisha Nails is Angela. Angela's brother was Dina's first husband. Angela came to me after the finale, before the reunion, and asked me if my ex-husband had to sign for my children to do the show. And I said, 'Yes.' She said, 'Well, how come my brother's name got forged?'…So I have her a phone number to call the production company…He had to sign for his daughter to do the show, but he didn't get asked. And he didn't want her on the show. According to Angela."
A peek at photographer Tom Munro's collection of stunning, sexy, surprising portraits
Photographs by Tom Munro
About half of what makes a celebrity photographer great is the ability to produce revealing and surprising portraits of people we've seen photographed thousands and thousands of times before. British photographer Tom Munro does that as well as anyone. The other skill that a great celebrity photographer must possess is an unwavering ability to make their subjects look great, time after time. And when Madonna agrees to write the forward to your self-titled book, Tom Munro, you know that you've done something right in that regard. ("Tom always makes you look foxy!" Madonna gushes.) What further endorsement do you want? Here are eight pictures from Mr. Munro's impressive new book, which features remarkable photos of the famous—Johnny Depp, Dustin Hoffman—as well as the famously foxy, but we've chose to focus on the latter.
The Burning Wire
A Lincoln Rhyme Novel
Lincoln Rhyme is back, on the trail of a killer whose weapon of choice cripples New York City with fear.
The weapon is invisible and omnipresent. Without it, modern society grinds to a halt. It is electricity. The killer harnesses and steers huge arc flashes with voltage so high and heat so searing that steel melts and his victims are set afire.
When the first explosion occurs in broad daylight, reducing a city bus to a pile of molten, shrapnel-riddled metal, officials fear terrorism. Rhyme, a world-class forensic criminologist known for his successful apprehension of the most devious criminals, is immediately tapped for the investigation. Long a quadriplegic, he assembles NYPD detective Amelia Sachs and officer Ron Pulaski as his eyes, ears and legs on crime sites, and FBI agent Fred Dellray as his undercover man on the street. As the attacks continue across the city at a sickening pace, and terrifying demand letters begin appearing, the team works desperately against time and with maddeningly little forensic evidence to try to find the killer. Or is it killers . . . ?
By Stephen King
From New York Times bestselling author Stephen King comes the haunting story of Blockade Billy, the greatest Major League baseball player to be erased from the game.
Even the most die-hard baseball fans don’t know the true story of William “Blockade Billy” Blakely. He may have been the greatest player the game has ever seen, but today no one remembers his name. He was the first--and only--player to have his existence completely removed from the record books. Even his team is long forgotten, barely a footnote in the game’s history.
Every effort was made to erase any evidence that William Blakely played professional baseball, and with good reason. Blockade Billy had a secret darker than any pill or injection that might cause a scandal in sports today. His secret was much, much worse... and only Stephen King, the most gifted storyteller of our age, can reveal the truth to the world, once and for all.
Originally published through Cemetery Dance Publications on April 20, 2010 as a $25.00 limited-edition hardcover, Stephen King and Cemetery Dance have made an arrangement with Scribner to make available a less expensive hardcover edition of Blockade Billy, with an on-sale date of May 25th, the same date the audiobook goes on sale. The Scribner edition will be available in all U.S. and Canadian retail outlets. Both the Scribner book and the Simon & Schuster audiobook will feature a bonus short story ("Morality").
Spoken from the Heart
By Laura Bush
In this brave, beautiful, and deeply personal memoir, Laura Bush, one of our most beloved and private first ladies, tells her own extraordinary story.
Born in the boom-and-bust oil town of Midland, Texas, Laura Welch grew up as an only child in a family that lost three babies to miscarriage or infant death. She vividly evokes Midland's brash, rugged culture, her close relationship with her father, and the bonds of early friendships that sustain her to this day. For the first time, in heart-wrenching detail, she writes about the devastating high school car accident that left her friend Mike Douglas dead and about her decades of unspoken grief.
When Laura Welch first left West Texas in 1964, she never imagined that her journey would lead her to the world stage and the White House. After graduating from Southern Methodist University in 1968, in the thick of student rebellions across the country and at the dawn of the women's movement, she became an elementary school teacher, working in inner-city schools, then trained to be a librarian. At age thirty, she met George W. Bush, whom she had last passed in the hallway in seventh grade. Three months later, "the old maid of Midland married Midland's most eligible bachelor." With rare intimacy and candor, Laura Bush writes about her early married life as she was thrust into one of America's most prominent political families, as well as her deep longing for children and her husband's decision to give up drinking. By 1993, she found herself in the full glare of the political spotlight. But just as her husband won the Texas governorship in a stunning upset victory, her father, Harold Welch, was dying in Midland.
The Overton Window
By Glenn Beck
A plan to destroy America, a hundred years in the making, is about to be unleashed . . . can it be stopped?
There is a powerful technique called the Overton Window that can shape our lives, our laws, and our future. It works by manipulating public perception so that ideas previously thought of as radical begin to seem acceptable over time. Move the Window and you change the debate. Change the debate and you change the country.
For Noah Gardner, a twentysomething public relations executive, it’s safe to say that political theory is the furthest thing from his mind. Smart, single, handsome, and insulated from the world’s problems by the wealth and power of his father, Noah is far more concerned about the future of his social life than the future of his country.
But all of that changes when Noah meets Molly Ross, a woman who is consumed by the knowledge that the America we know is about to be lost forever. She and her group of patriots have vowed to remember the past and fight for the future—but Noah, convinced they’re just misguided conspiracy-theorists, isn’t interested in lending his considerable skills to their cause.
And then the world changes.
By Tori Spelling
Welcome to Los Angeles, birthplace and residence of Tori Spelling.
It’s not every Hollywood starlet whose name greets you on a Virgin Airways flight into la-la land. But Tori Spelling has come to accept that her life is a spectacle. Her name is her brand, and business is booming. Too bad when your job is to be yourself, you can’t exactly take a break.
Tori finally has everything she thought she wanted—a loving family and a successful career—but trying to live a normal life in Hollywood is a little weird. With the irresistible wit, attitude, and humor that fans have come to love, the New York Times bestselling author of sTORI telling and Mommywood is back with more hilarious, heartwarming, and candid stories of juggling work, marriage, motherhood, and reality television cameras.
Tori comes clean about doing her time on jury duty, stalking herself on Twitter, discovering her former 90210 castmates’ "I Hate Tori" club, contracting swine flu, and contacting Farrah Fawcett from the dead. Like many mothers, she struggles to find balance (Stars, they’re just like us!)—only most women don’t have to battle it out with paparazzi at the grocery store. She talks openly about the darker side of life in the spotlight: media scrutiny over her weight and her marriage to Dean McDermott, her controversial relationship with Dean’s ex-wife, and her unfolding reconciliation with her mother.
Divine Soul Songs
Sacred Practical Treasures to Heal, Rejuvenate, and Transform You, Humanity, Mother Earth, and All Universes
By Zhi Gang Sha
Divine Soul Songs carry divine frequency and vibration, with divine love, forgiveness, compassion, and light.Millions are searching for soul secrets, wisdom, knowledge, and practices to fulfill their spiritual journeys. They want to know the purpose of life. They want their spiritual journeys to be deeply blessed. They also want to transform their physical lives. They want health. They want happiness. They want to prolong life. They want good relationships. They want financial abundance. The Divine Soul Songs offered in this book can transform every aspect of your life. They are treasures to be used for healing, rejuvenation, and purification of your soul, heart, mind, and body, and the souls, hearts, minds, and bodies of others.Every book in the Soul Power Series offers new teachings to empower readers to do soul selfhealing and more, but this book has more practical exercises than any other. Here Dr. Sha gives you the experience of a live Divine Soul Songs workshop with him. He presents these treasures in such a simple and practical way that you'll soon experience profound results.Enjoy them. Practice them. Benefit from them. Use these divine treasures to serve yourself, your loved ones, and others.
RULES OF DECEPTION
BY CHRISTOPHER REICH
It’s a story about an honest and courageous doctor, Jonathan Ransom, who works for Doctors Without Bordes. Happily married he deeply loves his wife Emma who works with him. Reich plunges his protagonist, Dr Ransom, into a dangerous world of international intrigue and death. After his wife dies in a skiing accident in the Swiss Alps, Ransom learns she had been leading a double life as a spy. What starts out as a search for answers about his late wife’s past quickly escalates into a frantic life and death chase across northern Europe. Reich keeps the action coming, as the doctor tries to get to the bottom of it all.
BY JAMES PATTERSON
In the start of the gripping seventh Women’s Murder Club thriller, San Francisco is still haunted by the disappearance of Michael Campion, the adored teenage son of a former California governor, three months earlier. Following up on a tip that Michael was last seen entering a prostitute’s house, homicide inspector Lindsay Boxer and her new partner, Rich Conklin, are shocked when the hooker immediately confesses that Michael, who had a heart defect, died during sex and she disposed of his body. But the story soon takes a bizarre turn. Lindsay and Rich also scramble to track down a serial arsonist responsible for murdering a string of wealthy couples. In true Patterson style, the reader is privy to Lindsay’s thoughts as well as the killers’, ratcheting up the suspense. The twist at the end is perfect.
BEING A SCOT
BY SEAN CONNERY AND MURRAY GRIGOR
An international super star and a knight of the British Empire, but Sir Sean Connery considers himself a Scot first. He grew up in a two-room Fountainbridge home in the smoky industrial end of Edinburgh delivering milk as a schoolboy. He still knows the city of Edinburgh practically street by street from his delivering days. His round included Fettes College, where Ian Fleming had sent his fictional James Bond after he was expelled from Eton. In this book Sir Sean paints a vivid and highly personal portrait of Scotland and its achievements. His personal quest with writer Murray Grigor has been to seek answers to some perplexing questions. How did the Scots come to devise so many new sports and games, or raise others to new heights? What gave fire to the Gothic tendency in Scottish literature? Why have so many creatively inventive and influential architects been Scots? Where did Scotland’s unreal blend of psychotic humour originate? And what about the national tradition of self-deprecation sometimes called the Scottish cringe? He also offers a correction to misconceptions that many believe are part of history and reveals as never before his own vibrant personal history.
BY DAVID BALDACCI
Former CIA assassin Oliver Stone (aka John Carr) boards a New Orleans-bound train at Washington’s Union Station after shooting to death a will-known US senator and the nation’s intelligence chief, the two men responsible for his wife’s murder. Ever the Good Samaritan, Stone intervenes in a fight on the train, but when the Amtrak conductor asks to see his ID, he gets off at the next station, knowing his fake ID won’t withstand scrutiny. This detour takes Stone to Divine, a one-horse mining town, where he becomes enmeshed in corruption and intrigue. Stone is not only evading his pursuers, he’s also cast himself adrift from his comrades, who are working feverishly behind the scenes to find him and keep him safe.
THE LOST ARMY
BY VALERIO MASSIME MANFREDI
It is the 4th century BC. In a village in Syria a woman, dressed in rags is seen approaching from the north. Suspicious, the villagers shout and throw rocks at her. She is struck and falls. She was the mistress of Xenophon, a general in the vast army of the thousand Greek mercenaries from virtually every Greek city state employed by Cyrus the Younger, in his quest to seize the throne of Persia from his brother, Artaxerxes II. This is a rip-roaring adventure seen from the perspective of the women who accompanied the soldiers on their long journey.
BY CHRIS RYAN
Former SAS Captain, Tom Jackson, is a man with nothing to lose. A veteran of the most dangerous missions the Regiment could throw at him, his life was torn apart the day a terrorist attack killed his family. Now he grieves in obscurity, the world of warfare nothing but a distant memory. However, people higher up the chain of command have other plans for Tom. They are in a mess of their own making, and make him an offer he can’t refuse-an offer that will take him back into the brutal theatre of war. There’s a disaster waiting to happen, which only one person can help prevent, and that person is being held by the Taliban insurgency in the depths of a harsh Afghanistan winter. As Tom reluctantly prepares for this final mission, he does so in the knowledge that it will stop a devastating terrorist attack. But as events begin to unfold, Tom suspects that someone is playing a game with him.
TYRANT STORM OF THE ARROWS
BY CHRISTIAN CAMERON
A great page-turner and a minutiae of military logistics, it is a sweeping epic that takes the reader into the heart of a different time and culture as the author takes a forgotten part of history and brings it to life, Kineas, the Atheniander together with his mercenary force and Scythian allies have defeated a mighty Macedonian army at the Ford of the River God, and his adopted city of Olbia is now free once more. But at the farthest edge of the Sea of Grass, Alexander is threatening to crush the Scythian hordes once and for all The Lady Srayanka of the Cruel Hands, the Scythian warrior-princess who spurned a king’s love to be at kineas’s side, is pledged to take her tribe east to help stop ‘the monster’ and Kineas knows he has no choice but to follow.
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